The genetically engineered food experiment has continued in the United States even as most of Europe, and dozens of countries for that matter, have banned the crops overseas.
Now, the Scotts Lawncare company is set to release one of the biggest (and most experimental) GMO technologies yet — a new genetically engineered grass, originally co-developed along with Monsanto in the 1990s, with the potential to contaminate other grasses for miles and miles away.
And it’s all been made possible thanks to a controversial ruling that has people everywhere talking.
Scotts GMO Grass Gets Approval Nod From USDA
In 2007, the Scotts Lawncare Company, a close ally of Monsanto and major distribution hub for the company’s cancer-linked Roundup herbicide, was fined $500,000 by the USDA after its GMO bentgrass escaped a test plot in Oregon (the incident happened in 2003). Hundreds if not thousands of plants were found several miles away from the original site.
What caused the contamination and whether it will be prevented in the future is anyone’s guess. But it’s a real threat in light of recent news that the company’s next GMO grass crop has been officially deregulated.
The news was reported on by Newsweek, which said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had announced the regulation.
The company is also reportedly no longer on the hook for any cleanup costs that may be associated with the grass potentially spreading and contaminating other plants. Thus far, the company has spent millions attempting to clean up contamination from the Oregon incident, with little luck.
News of the deregulation comes as a serious blow to environmental and GMO-free activists who believe that the unregulated, untested nature of the grass could cause serious problems once it is unleashed into the wild.
Already, the Oregon and Idaho Departments of Agriculture have come out strongly against the deregulation according to the Newsweek report.
“Uncontained GM crops that escape into neighboring fields or waterways can pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of nearby farmers and ranchers, not to mention being a costly nuisance to the entire community,” an email written by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley’s spokesperson Martina McLennan said; Merkley also opposed it.
Organic and non-GMO farmers are particularly concerned because their crops could be tainted, and overseas markets often have a zero tolerance policy that is far stricter than the United States, testing for genes and often denying U.S. shipments because of the presence of GMO material.
“We remain confident in the technology [meaning the grass], the safety of the technology, and we don’t believe it will have an impact on the environment,” said Jim King, the senior VP of cororate affairs with Scotts.
But with no long-term safety testing and the extreme potential for contamination (over 400 locations of the escaped grass have already been found in Malheur County for example), what the long-term effects will be is anyone’s guess.
It could also threaten two endangered plant species and change the habitant of an endangered blue butterfly according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which came out against it during its initial trial period.
And making matters even worse is that the grass could reach the nearby Wilamette Valley, where about 1,500 farmers are part of the grass seed business and large amounts of organic crops are grown. The grass seed is sold to overseas markets, which mostly refuse to buy GMO-tainted seed and crops.
Are Monsanto and Scotts specifically targeting the area for strategic reasons in order to make life miserable for organic farmers? That’s a question many are asking themselves in regards to the controversial new crop.
For more information on the new GMO grass and possible legal challenges to it, check out the full article by clicking here. The USDA has declined to comment on the controversial grass according to the report.
You can also send a message to Scotts on their Facebook page here.